The iron curtain of freedom

Day 11 - Luxembourg

I awoke in room 410 with enough time to throw my clothes back in the pack, bid farewell to Munich, I barely knew thee, and begin the end of our journey. We only had one stop left, that of Luxembourg, the sovereign tax haven straddling the borders of Germany, France and Belgium. It was a tiny dot on the horizon and we'd have to cross most of Southern Germany to reach the place. As James steeled himself to six hours behind the wheel with equal fortitude I took up the pen again, every epic journey needs its chronicler right? But my mind, never the most biddable beast, drifted from the empty page. It stared wordlessly at the passing hills and trees as for the first time on the trip the car pointed towards home. The landscape was imbued with a glow, as if the softest and most gentle tune followed its contours and weaved through its verdant forests. A thread of gold too thin and fine for all to be able to see glinted in the sun and stretched off into the landscape pulling me one way as the road relentlessly pulled me the other. It wrapped and gilded my feelings even as I laughed at their slight absurdity. All things must pass but I exalted in the moment, breathing in the scent of fresh linen, wriggling my toes at the bottom of the bed as the early morning sun crept around the edges of the curtains. I corralled my romantic and soporific thoughts by and by and threw them back to the preceding days, though the former affection complimented the latter. It had been a great trip, restorative in a way I probably didn't realise at the time. I was never between places, leaving behind a past that wasn't what I hoped it would be and stretching for a future that absolutely, positively was going to be everything I dreamed of. The moment had value and wasn't to be endured until a more favourable one came along. I approached my 48th country and still I move, still I ponder its meaning and ask myself again why I do it. It seems so utterly caused by chance, by answering an unexpected question with an unexpected answer. A 'yes' when every ounce of my timid being screamed 'no'. Maybe I doubt the authenticity of my experiences because of that and suspect that it is all just the cold compilation of a list. Am I still striving to be defined by travel or does travel unavoidably or naturally define me? As ever I seem to have more questions than answers, what the hell is this blog for? But if I narrow my eyes I think I can almost see the answer, just beyond the horizon. What is it? I'll have to go there to find out.
Luxembourg City will not be my most effusive and excessively floral rendition of a place. It is one of, I was later informed by a learned friend, Europe's seven micro-states, the others being Lichtenstein, Andorra, San Marino, Malta, Vatican City and Monaco. I had only previously visited the latter of these which burns my burnished travelling pride a mite. But then I've barely done half of Europe at this point, 26 of 51, that horizon ever leads somewhere new. Anyway as I was saying, Luxembourg City, well there's not a lot to say. It has a funfair in the city centre, it is populated disproportionately by wealthy people (the city, less so the funfair), a gentleman could more than adequately outfit himself in the ateliers and his gentlewoman would be looked after too. We took dinner in the Place d'Armas to the background of Luxembourger folk music from the bandstand, possibly in Luxembourgish. The sky darkened to cobalt and little bulbs flickered to life above our heads. It felt a pleasantly dull place, unrocked by the currents of the continent, let alone the world. It was a model village surrounded by waves that heaved greater each passing day pulling men, women and children back and relentlessly forth and often, tragically, down. They crash against hasty defences and pour through gaps to find a level ground. Just as a tsunami reaches its full extent as you stand before it on the beach so we have slapped the waters many miles away and seen the ripples grow.
The exquisite ease of our passage through eleven countries was well illustrated the next day as we sped like Greg Rutherford towards the ferry, our schedule not enhanced by a detour around Gent. Razor-wire topped fences (so thoughtfully donated by the British Government) lined our passage and segregated us from the camps sprung up to either side. These weren't there the last time I came through Calais, the fences, but to an extent the camps too. It made me wonder if the ignorant transitions between the...politically united...nations of this continent would be there the next time I come through. It made me wonder if we have idly lifted the corner of the snooker table and are starting to feel the thunderous crash of simple physics across the red-stained baize...

No comments:

Post a Comment